Let me be the first to congratulate you for making it to the sixth decade of your life. In these 50 something years, you have managed to go through three “MEN”- MENstruation, MEN of course and MENopause and whole lot more in between and yet you have your wits about yourself. Just for that you need a roaring round of applause.
Through this journey of a lifetime, your selfie maker handled the sobs and the smiles, the angst and the anger, the desires and the distress. And after all that, just like you, your skin direly needs some pampering and TLC. Since you are here reading this, I am assuming that you are in the mood to indulge your skin and I am going to tell you exactly how to do that.
But first, I want to talk about what your skin is doing at this age and why it is doing what it is doing. Those of you who already know about the role of hormones in the skin aging equation can skip this part. For the rest, this section will help you to better understand your skin, its needs and how to handle them.
Your Skin At 50!
Let us begin by discussing the hormonal event that you will encounter at this point in your life – MENOPAUSE. The average age for this phenomenon is between 51 and 54. I am sure you already know that menopause is when estrogen production comes to a sputtering stop. Now, this happens in two ways.
In some women, the levels taper off gradually till they sink to zero. In other women, the level falls like a rock, suddenly and with a loud THUD! It goes without saying that all the ghastly side effects associated with menopause like massive mood swings, hot flashes, sudden and extreme dermal dryness are all intensely pronounced in women who fall in the second category.
The link between estrogen and skin aging!
But, regardless of the way in which estrogen makes its exit from your body, you can be sure of one thing, it is going to take its two hand maidens – collagen and elastin along. So, at menopause you are not only dealing with skin dryness but also with a significant loss of volume and support. I call this the hollow effect! It can be seen on the cheeks and under the eyes. It looks like your skin is melting down from your face.
Now, let me address the elephant in the room…Is it possible to deal with these changes just with a skincare routine? Yes and No! Within reason, you can boost the levels of collagen and elastin. It is also possible to limit skin sag and tighten the dermal layers with topical interventions but the loss of volume is something that cannot be tackled with any skincare product.
And, what do derms have to say about this!
Well, they only have two solutions, the 2 “F’s” – Fillers and Facelifts! Now, there are plenty of “before and after” pictures of surgeries and fillers gone wrong to keep regular folks like us away from them. I also strongly believe that such procedures would be worth the risk and the small fortune that you spend on them if the results would be long lasting, if not permanent.
But at the most, you get 6 months to 1 year from such treatments, so why bother? My take on it is simple – The natural route is always the best and the safest! So, start caring for your skin starting now. It is much like working out. Just because you were not diligent with your workouts in the past or did not visit the gym at all, does not mean that starting today won’t give you good results. This is what you need to do:
50’s Morning Skincare in 4 Simple Steps
1. No more cleanser for you by doctor’s orders
OK, no doctor actually told me that I can’t wash my face in the morning. But, what I do know for a fact is that most women in their fifties complain of cracking dermal dryness. The logic is simple, why bother to intensify a problem that already exists?
So, start using a mixture of sesame and flax seed meal on your skin. Both oil seeds bring precious skin healing oils and antioxidants to the table plus sesame also boasts of phytoesterol content, which helps to makeup up for the loss of the natural estrogen in the dermal matrix.
Mix with buttermilk, almond milk or soy milk or green tea to get a thick paste. Massage on your skin for 5-7 minutes, using upward strokes so as to slough off the dead cells. Wash with warm water and pat your face dry.
If your mornings crackle with activity and you simply don’t have 5-10 minutes for the above process, go ahead and wipe your face with some almond or soya milk. Use cotton wool soaked in the liquid of your choice and as usual move your hands in upward strokes, so those dermal layers get saturated with the liquid of your choice. Wash off with regular, tap water and pat your skin dry.
2. Nourish and hydrate
If you have read any of my other articles in the skincare series, you may already know that I am a big fan of vitamin C as a topical anti-aging and skin healing treatment and why not? This is the one nutrient that provides a bevy of benefits including kicking up collagen production, erasing pigmentation and fighting off free radicals.
But for all its benefits, it also does cause skin drying and dermal dryness, which is a HUGE concern for anybody in their fifties. So, set your favorite vitamin C serum aside (no don’t throw it away) and go for a product that contains peptides, humectants, antioxidants and growth factors.
Humectants like squalene, glycerin and hyaluronic acid provide hydration, while antioxidants like resveratrol, curcumin, COQ-10 and others protect from oxidative damage. Both peptides and growth factors help to boost collagen synthesis and your skin needs support desperately, so both of these are prized ingredients.
If you have some serious dough to dish out, then look for stem cells in the formula. At the moment, very few companies are actually offering embryonic (read human) stem cells, so don’t get all antsy about this. Plant stem cells are not as effective as embryonic stem cells but they are known to contain both proteins and growth factors which help to boost collagen levels.
Typically, stem cells are derived from plants that are known to be beneficial for dermal health like gotu kola, edelweiss, raspberry and others. So, one way or the other your skin will benefit from the inclusion of this very expensive ingredient.
3. Moisturize and then moisturize some more
Although you don’t have to settle for a product that leaves your face greasy and shiny, do choose a richer moisturizer than what you did in your earlier decades. In fact, you will notice that even with a rich moisturizer, the familiar stretchy and uncomfortable feeling will return to your skin within a few hours of application. This should tell you how desperately your skin is crying out for hydration and protection.
Ceramides are the gold standard when it comes to enhancing the function of the skin’s lipid barrier and shielding the dermal cells from environmental damage. So, choose a product that contains nutrients like vitamin E and niacinamide that control inflammation and soothing carrier oils that are rich in ceramides like almond, safflower, hemp, rice, barley, kukui and wheatgerm, for example L’orpur moisturizers. Overall, fatty acids like stearic and palmitic are what your skin needs to enhance its natural defense system.
Phytoesterols are another class of ingredients to look for in your day time moisturizer. These are plant derived estrogenic factors that improve estrogen levels in the skin without the ghastly side effects linked to HRT.
4. Provide broad spectrum protection
If you thought you no longer need protection from sunlight because the damage has already been done, think again! Your SPF is still the most useful product in your skincare arsenal. Use it diligently and ensure that you go for a protective factor of at least 30. Reapply your SPF every 2-3 hours when spending time out in the sun and try to don a wide brimmed hat or rely on an umbrella to protect your thinning skin.
Midday Skincare Routine For 50’s
Assuming that you will have some makeup on your skin by afternoon, there is no need to mess with the effect created by your coverage product by using a rich moisturizer. Instead, pick a product that is light-weight, non-greasy but rich in emollients and humectants. Before applying, do spray or dab of a replenishing toner or a hydrosol on your skin and then use the humectant containing product all over your face, neck and décolletage while your skin is damp.
The deal with humectants is that they draw water from the deeper layers of the skin cells and make the fluids available to the upper layers. While this has the desired plumping effect on younger skin, when your dermal cells don’t have water to spare, digging deeper can lead to increased dehydration if you don’t offer external fluids. This is where a replenishing toner or hydrosol comes in handy. Using a nutrient and antioxidant rich toner/tonic will not only supply hydration but will also offer protection and nourishment.
Over 50’s Night Time Skincare 3-Step Regimen
An exfoliating cleanse at night will ensure that the products you use have the desired impact. To remove your makeup, use a carrier oil like virgin olive, coconut or sweet almond or micellar water. Apply/spray on the makeup remover of your choice and give it a minute to dissolve the grime and stale makeup before wiping it off. The idea is to remove your makeup with the minimal amount of rubbing and tugging of the skin.
Use a creamy cleanser if you have used micellar water to take off your make up. For those of you who have opted for oil cleansing, go for round two and this time give your skin about 2-3 minutes of massage and wipe your face and neck off with cotton wool soaked in warm green tea. If you have exfoliated your skin in the morning with the oil seed meal, you can simply use a creamy cleanser or oil cleansing without the need for exfoliation.
If you kept exfoliation for the end of the day, use a cleanser with jojoba beads which are gentle enough for the aging skin. For oil cleansing and exfoliation, you can try fine ground Himalayan salt granules mixed with the oil in round two which will tackle the dead cells. But, remember to wash your face with warm water after this instead of just wiping the oil off. You want all the salt off of your skin or it can cause dryness and itching.
Another option is to use oil to remove makeup and then a mixture of yoghurt and pomegranate or orange peel powder. You can make this mixture and keep it in the refrigerator for 3-4 days at a time and use about a tablespoon of it to cover your face and neck. Apply as you would any cleanser, massaging the formulation into your skin for about 3-4 minutes. Use gentle, circular strokes with minimum downward pressure. Keep the mixture on your face for about 4-5 minutes and then wash off with warm water.
I am going on the assumption here that you are already using prescription strength retinol on your skin. Hear me out before you yell that I am going against my own word. Undoubtedly, retinol is the Holy Grail when it comes to boosting cellular turnover. So, all through your thirties and forties, this is what you needed to keep your skin plump, glowing and youthful.
But, retinol achieves the desired effect by promoting exfoliation. Simply put, it removes the surface cells which sends a message to the body to generate new cells faster. However, there is only so much full strength exfoliation that you are skin can bear when you are in your fifties. The main problem is not so much the ingredient itself but the natural thinning of your skin in this decade.
If you peel out more of a layer that is already receding, you will end up with a thinner surface than what you originally had; this is common sense. So, while you should still be using retinol, turn it into an alternate day affair. This way, you get its benefits while minimizing the side effects. And for the day in between, go ahead and use your regular 10-20% vitamin C serum. Find a formulation that contains vitamin C with ferulic acid and other skin health boosters like green tea extract and hyaluronic acid.
Apply after cleansing while your skin is still damp. But, if you have been experiencing heightened skin sensitivity, wait for 20-30 minutes after facial cleansing to apply the serum. Instead of massaging the serum into your skin, take about a pea sized amount on the back of your hand and apply it all over your face and neck in pressing motion. Simply, press it against your skin and lift and press again till you cover all parts of the face 2-3 times.
3. Deeper moisturization
As the final touch for the night, go for a rich hydrating cream/balm that will annul the drying effect of the acidic ingredients in the serum while locking in their benefits. Look for a formulation made from plant butter and waxes and carrier oils that have skin healing and anti-inflammatory properties. Now, this is the bit where you show your skin just how much you care for it. So, spend about 10 minutes massaging the creamy formulation on your face and neck.
Personally, I am all for the roller ball massager. It gets the blood flow going and can be used all over the face and neck, including the delicate area around the eyes.
In fact, when used with a moisturizer after the application of an eye cream, the results are nothing short of spectacular. But, you can opt for a sonic or vibrating or infra-red massage device or rely on your paws, it is up to you as long as you pamper your skin with good ol’ touch therapy.
If you have used excess lipids/cream/oil/moisturizer to facilitate the massage, don’t forget to dab the area around the eyes with some soft tissue just before heading to bed. This will prevent the oils from entering your eyes and leaving them red and swollen by morning.
Once again here, the emphasis is on tackling dryness and inflammation. So, go for two mask sessions each week and a biweekly (once every 15 days) facial steaming session. For steaming, use hot water (a few degrees short of boiling) with 2 drops each of chamomile and helichrysum essential oil added to it.
Alternatively, chop up a bunch of herbs and add these to the water and bring it to a boil. Cool for about a minute and steam your face with this concoction. You can use whatever is available; from basil and oregano to sage and parsley and others. After steaming, apply a deep hydrating mask, sheet or not, and finish with a coating of your moisturizer after you have cleaned your face.
This should ideally be done at the beginning of the week, so that you can reserve time for an overnight mask around Thursday. Go through your night-time skincare routine but instead of the moisturizer or cream, use the all-night mask.
Adjusting for weather
Damage from smoke, sun and other environmental factors will be more intense than ever before when you are heading towards your sixtieth. So, use an antioxidant rich toner before the serum when heading out on summer days. Also, use your sunscreen religiously to keep skin damage in control.
In winter, even if you are not big on oil cleansing, apply a face oil all over your face and body before heading into the shower, particular if you enjoy long hot showers. Yes, they can be soothing for the mind and body but disastrous on your skin. The oil will stop the heat from drying your skin out. Use your body wash or any other bath product as you normally do but your face should only get a few splashes of warm water and no cleanser.
A Few More Tips For Great Skin In Your Fifties
If you have not tried yoga and facial exercises as yet, you are already a few years behind schedule but no worries. Start today and in a few weeks you will see tangible results. But remember to only work those facial muscles after you have thoroughly saturated your skin with face oil/oils first. This pretty much eliminates the risk of micro tears and inflammation. In fact, wait for about 20 minutes after applying a face oil for your facial workout.
Inversion therapy will not only work wonders on your body but also on the health of your skin and your hair. You really don’t need complete inversion to experience the benefits of this therapy, about 60 degrees and even if you gradually work your way up to it, will be good enough.
Tai chi, meditation, spending time in nature, regular exercise, indulging in a stimulating hobby and enjoying your favorite stress relief tea blends will help immensely to slow down your internal body clock.
Phytoestrogens offer fantastic results not just when used topically but also when consumed in moderation. Recall Samantha gorging on mashed yam in the second installment of SNTC? I tell you the girl was headed in the right direction. In moderation, plant estrogens can help to dull the side effects of menopause and they are definitely safer than hormone replacement therapy.
On The Last Leg Of The Tour!
After all of that, if the signs of dermal aging or the impact of menopause are really affecting your life negatively, do not sweep them under the carpet! Talk to your doctor at once. For skin issues, if you are considering more than topical products, go for the least invasive procedures first, such as ultra sound and radio frequency laser therapy for skin tightening and then look into other more advanced options.